Symbols - What does heaven look like
Logos now has multiple meanings in philosophy, rhetoric and religion, all of which have been the consequence of the difficulty in defining and interpreting the term. It was first established by Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BCE) to mean “ both the source and fundamental order of the cosmos”.
Thus in the sense that Heraclitus meant it, it is equivalent to the Word. The Stoic philosophers defined the term in the same way identifying the term with the “divine animating principle pervading the universe”.
The definition was then muddied when the sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to rational discourse. Further confusion was caused when the Gospel of John identified Jesus as the “incarnation of the Logos, through which all things are made”. If we believe Jesus to be a sort of archetype of the perfect ‘human software package’, then this definition is true, but as a statement it can only cause confusion.
In ordinary, non-technical Greek, logos had two overlapping meanings. One meaning referred to an instance of speaking: "sentence, saying, oration"; the other meaning was the antithesis of ergon or energeia - "action" or "work”. Antithesisis Greek for "setting opposite” and is a counter-proposition denoting a direct contrast to the original proposition. So the Logos is not software in action – the programs of the universe being executed – it is the original language in which the code can be described - the Word.
Heraclitus deliberately did not use the term ‘lexis’ which was used for the normal words we might use in everyday speech or writing, hence logos was intended to have a very distinct meaning separate from any concept of the spoken or written word.
Logos is usually translated as "the Word" in English Bibles such as the King James version, but Gordon Clark (1902 - 1985), a Calvinist theologian and expert on pre-Socratic philosophy, famously translated Logos as "Logic": "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God and the Logic was God." Perhaps of all theologians he came closest to the real meaning of the Word.
In order for any software to work it has to conform to logic, to order, to a syntax, to a set of rules for defining the statements. As such the Logos is equivalent to the programming language – the complete syntactical and semantic description used to program the software of the universe.
One of the very odd consequences of assocating the Logos, the Word with logic and reason has been the tendency – certainly in Christianity – to put reason before any other form of thinking. We applaud reasoned arguments, we look for rational thinking and in science only believe reasoned rational and logical research. Western culture has almost sprung from the association of the Word as ordered programming language used to define the systems of the universe and our basic conduct in life.
Catholics even use ‘logos’ to refer to the ‘moral law’ written in human hearts. This comes from Jeremiah 31:33 (prophecy of new covenant): "I will write my law on their hearts." Given that functions such as ‘conscience’ must have some form of Word based statements of logic, they are right.